As environmental consciousness blossoms during the 1990s, Frans R. Lambrechtsen is betting on a resurgence of interest in solar power.
It's the only energy source that is inexhaustible and emits zero pollution. It's also available for free wherever the sun shines.All you need are products that use it. That is where Lambrechtsen's company, SolNetics Corp., comes in.
SolNetics manufactures solar-powered consumer electronic products.
"Our feeling is that it's time," Lambrechtsen said. "In the early 1970s there was lots of interest in solar power because of the OPEC oil embargo. But then solar began to take backseat again to fossil fuels."
The Persian Gulf war again illustrated the precariousness of our dependence on foreign oil, Lambrechtsen said.
SolNetics currently markets one product, the Executive LapMate, a 12-volt solar-powered battery charger used to extend the life of or recharge batteries in laptop computers. It works with light from any source - the sun or an indoor lamp.
After CNN reporter Peter Arnett commented during a broadcast about the lack of power in Baghdad and his inability to use his laptop computer, SolNetics sent him an Executive LapMate.
Lambreschtsen doesn't know if the product ever reached Arnett but said it would have been ideal for use in the war. The LapMate retails for $89.95 and is currently sold via direct mail.
Lambreschtsen thinks LapMate will appeal to journalists, field engineers and business travelers visiting countries with varying or inconsistent power supplies.
In two weeks, SolNetics will begin marketing its second product - a solar-powered walkman-type radio cleverly called "Sol Man." The radio will retail for $29.95.
The ultra light Sol Man radio is half an inch thick and about the size of a pocket calculator. Lambreschtsen predicts it will appeal to runners, bicyclists and "parents who are tired of buying . . . batteries for their kids who run their Walkmans until they are dead."
Other solar-powered products in the works are battery chargers, outdoor lights and motion sensors, a mobile phone, camcorder chargers and barricade lights used for road construction.
"Instead of having to swap batteries every couple of days or weeks, the barricade would recharge itself everyday," Lambreschtsen said.
Lambreschtsen and a partner started SolNetics, located at 590 S. 100 West, suite 7, in November. The company currently employs four people. Prior to starting SolNetics, Lambreschtsen was an international trade representative.
"We feel that the 1990s, with new emphasis on protecting our environments, is a good time to start to introduce consumer electronics that are solar powered," Lambreschtsen said.
He hopes that within eight years, SolNetics products will be on the shelves at major chain stores.